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Family sues police in death of girl, 7

The family of a slain 7-year-old Detroit girl files a lawsuit accusing police of violating her constitutional rights during a weekend raid that led to her death.
Dominika Stanley, Charles Jones
Dominika Stanley, left, the mother of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, who was killed early Sunday in Detroit, sits next to Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, in attorney Geoffrey Fieger's office in Southfield, Mich., Tuesday.Carlos Osorio / Associated Press
/ Source: The Associated Press

The family of a 7-year-old girl slain by a police bullet during a raid on their home filed state and federal lawsuits Tuesday against the department, claiming police knew there were children in the home but conducted the raid with guns drawn anyway.

Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney for the family of Aiyana Jones, said Detroit police had no legitimate reason to throw a flash grenade into the home of Aiyana Jones early Sunday. He said police, who were looking for a murder suspect, had the home under surveillance for hours.

"Certainly, they were aware children were living the home," Fieger said at a news conference at his offices in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. He said the other children were ages 3 months, 2 and 4 years.

There were children's toys strewn about the family's front yard on Monday.

The federal lawsuit claims police violated Aiyana Jones' constitutional rights and seeks an unspecified cash award of more than $75,000. A four-count lawsuit filed in state court seeks damages of more than $25,000. The amounts the family is seeking in both lawsuits are likely much higher.

Police said officers threw a flash grenade through the first-floor window of the family's home early Sunday, and that an officer's gun discharged, killing the girl, during a confrontation inside the home with her grandmother. They later found the target of the raid, a 34-year-old man, in the apartment upstairs.

Fieger said he viewed three or four minutes of video footage of the raid, and that it shows the officer fired into the home from the family's porch after lobbing a flash grenade through a window. He said police are trying to cover-up what happened.

Fieger declined to say what footage he viewed, but a camera crew for the A&E reality series "The First 48" captured footage of the raid, network spokesman Dan Silberman said. The spokesman declined to comment about the case and denied a request by The Associated Press to view the footage.

'There are children in the house'
Aiyana's cousin, Mark Robinson, said he was walking the family's dogs when police grabbed him and threw him to the ground.

"I told them, 'There are children in the house. There are children in the house,'" Robinson told reporters at the news conference Tuesday.

The case has been handed over to the Michigan State Police to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Police have not identified the officer whose gun fired the shot that killed Aiyana. Detroit Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said he is a 14-year veteran with six to seven years on the Special Response Team and that he has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The officer was cleared following a nonfatal shooting last summer in which police returned fire after being were fired upon by someone barricaded in a house, Godbee said.

The Detroit police department has been under two court-ordered consent decrees since 2003 aimed at, among other things, correcting how and when its officers use force on suspects.